Today's suicide bombers are largely organised through fundamentalist Islamic groups. Most Muslims believe that their religion of peace and forgiveness forbids suicide bombs. Following the London bombings, many Muslim clerics condemned suicide bombing as un-Islamic. Some radical Muslim clerics, though, support such acts in certain circumstances, highlighting the importance in Islam of martyrdom.
During the Iran/Iraq war in the 1980s, Ayatollah Khomeini promised Iranian martyrs entry to paradise. The ranks of Iran's fundamentalist Bassidj were continually replenished. For Muslims, death is predetermined by Allah, but radical clerics advocate a 'holy' rather than 'cowardly' death in the face of injustice. In societies where Muslims suffer occupation and daily humiliation, these clerics and Islamist organisations exalt 'honour'. Those denied honour in life can achieve it through a glorious death.
Palestinian 'martyrs' act mainly on behalf of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Those who commit themselves to bomb are isolated for the week before their action and given constant reassurances from the Qur'an for their decision.
Such calls for martyrdom would fall on deaf ears, though, without real grievances. Al Qaeda's leader, Osama Bin Laden, propagandises against 'the West' which, he says, dominates and undermines Islam. The growing number of American troops (currently 150,000) in the Arabian peninsula since the 1991 Gulf War, the occupation of Iraq, the deaths of 20,000 Afghans and 100,000 Iraqis following the West's invasion provide daily 'proof' of his argument for recruits.
Organisations that blow up children, old people, and innocent bystanders in city centres won't bow to arguments from governments who inflict their 'collateral damage' from the sky then decorate their bombers with medals.
The circle of enemies is widening. In Iraq today, the main targets of Sunni Muslim suicide bombers are not the American and British occupying forces but Shia Muslims.
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